This week Seth C., the site editor over at Viva The Matadors, took some time to answer a few questions about the reinvigorated Texas Tech Red Raiders and how they matchup with the Cowboys as we head into Oklahoma State's biggest game of the season thus far. My questions to Seth are in bold.
Be sure to check out Viva The Matadors for the other half of this Q&A later in the week.
Both of these teams have started two different quarterbacks this season (for different reasons). Whereas Oklahoma State fans are largely unhappy and uncomfortable with both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh, I'd imagine that Texas Tech fans wouldn't mind seeing either Davis Webb or Baker Mayfield out there at this point. Is that accurate? How are they similar and how are they different? Who do you think gives the team the best chance to win?
Aww heck no. #DivdedFanbase. I somewhat kid, but I am being serious. There are definitely those that are on Team Baker and then there are those on Team Davis. I'm squarely on the side of just letting HC Kliff Kingsbury pick the one that he likes the best. He's coached some pretty good quarterbacks and I'm okay with both. Early in the season, I was squarely in QB Michae Brewer's corner as he had some terrific spring stats that really put him out ahead, but he's had some back issues that have kept him out.
As far as the differences, Mayfield is, I think, more short and intermediate type of passer with a pretty high completion rate, while Webb is more strong-armed and more likely to take some pretty looks down the field. Webb's arm also lets him make quicker and stronger throws to the sideline. Webb's biggest problem is that he's prone to turn the ball over, but he's more likely to make the big plays. Webb's also not as good on third downs, but the opponents have been a bit tougher, so you have to consider that. Given everything, I really am good with either.
Kliff Kingsbury is one of the hottest coaches in the nation, but he is also getting a lot of national attention for the job he is doing at Texas Tech. Does it look like he is running the same version of the air raid that Mike Leach popularized in Lubbock, or has he made some alterations? Is part of the team's success this season simply a product of the energy he's brought to the program?
I think there are some similarities. I honestly haven't had time to really dig into the differences between the two offenses. It's been three years since I got to look at it. Generally, I do think that Kingsbury is more likely to run the ball and likes to establish the running game a bit more. I don't know that the offense is significantly worse or better than what Leach did. There is not doubt that Kingsbury brings his own style to the entire how he goes about coaching. I think that part of the success is Kingsbury is a really good coach who is dedicated to his craft. I think that Kingsbury does bring a new and different energy to a bunch of kids that maybe have football-fun sucked from them. Being excited to play the game was something that we just didn't see over the past few years. There were some real down moments (see Oklahoma St. kicking Texas Tech's rear the past two years). Really though, the program needed a different person delivering the message and making football fun again.
The Red Raiders rank 26th in the nation in points per game allowed (21.1), their best work since 2009, and some of the advanced numbers have them in the top 40 in defensive efficiency. What is responsible for a sudden shift (31.8 points per game allowed last year) in the defense's production? Who are some of the playmakers that you have on that side of the ball?
Some of this is similar to Oklahoma St., Baylor and Oklahoma, in that their schedules are really back-loaded so Texas Tech has played some of the worst offenses in the Big 12 (Kansas, Iowa St., TCU, WVU). My goal prior to the year was that the defense really needed to be more opportunistic and it needed to get just a few more stops than the opponent and that couldn't be more true over the course of the next few weeks. I don't think that of the teams that are mentioned above are really going to "stop" one another, but the teams that are successful will create turnovers and get just a few more third down stops each game. As to the improvement, I'm still a bit hesitant, but the team passes the "eye test". Things just look better and the team has played better.
The best players have been Kerry Hyder, a very active defensive tackle that makes plays along the line of scrimmage. He had a tough game against OU (the entire line did), but he's been solid all year. Tre' Porter at safety has been terrific. He's a hard hitter that plays the run really well and has been great in coverage. OLB Pete Robertson has been pretty darned good off the edge as has DE Branden Jackson.
Texas Tech has a top 20 offense in the nation despite the fact that you can't really run the ball. Is this something that concerns you or do you not worry about it since the air raid presents numerous opportunities to use the short passing game in place of the rushing attack? How do you envision Texas Tech will attack the Oklahoma State defense, which is markedly better than their offense this season, on Saturday?
I suppose that it will be problematic at some point,but I guess I haven't been all that concerned about it. The rushing numbers look bad, but in terms of running back touches, screens and things like that, it hasn't seemed all that bad. And I know that I'm sounding like I'm making excuses, but the quarterback rushing numbers have really made those numbers look worse than they are. The offensive line was a bit green heading into the season and they took a bit of time to get into a groove, so that hurt a bit. The neat thing about Kingsbury is that he's done a pretty good job of keeping teams off base. If teams are real aggressive, then he's not afraid to try to screen around teams. He's also a big believer in going down the field and Jace Amaro is really a tough cover. Kingsbury has really added some play-action and more personnel groups over the course of the season and as his quarterbacks have grown into the system. You all know this than anyone else, these offensive guys are going to do what they despite the defense.
If Amaro is double-covered, then really creates some opportunities for some other guys, like Eric Ward, Bradley Marquez on the outside and Jakeem Grant and Sadale Foster on the inside.
We all remember how good Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree were, but Jace Amaro is a different kind of animal. He's having the best year of his career right now and is regarded by many as the best tight end prospect in college football. How exactly does he cause opposing defenses problems? What other weapons will we see Texas Tech utilize this weekend?
This is pretty simple because he's just bigger than everyone else. He's a legitimate 6-5/260 or so and he's too big for smaller defensive backs and a real tough cover for linebackers. Teams have tried to bracket (this is a new hip term to use) Amaro which is really just keeping guys on either side of him and that's worked to an extent, but he's still getting open. It takes two guys to cover him and that's the problem for defenses, especially when there are other guys that are pretty good in their own right, Ward, Marquez, Grant and Foster just in the receiver corps. I'd also add that Amaro in the slot is tough too because most times teams don't want to get right on him on the line of scrimmage. That window is a pretty nice advantage.
Does a part of you wish Mike Leach never left?
No, I'm pretty happy with how things have played out. I've played the What If Game for the past two years and it wasn't real fun running a blog that was really divided. I'm ecstatic with Kingsbury.
Who do Texas Tech fans hate more: Tommy Tuberville or Craig James?
That's tough because Dez didn't get to finish both years. I understand that statistically Blackmon was right there with Crabtree and they both won two Biletnikoff Awards. I'll take Crabtree because he has an iconic moment and a near record-braking freshman year (over 1,900 yards)
Is there anything this team (or any TTU team, for that matter) can do to top the memory of Crabtree's game winning touchdown against Texas (currently my 3rd best sports memory)?
Sure, I think fans always hope that they can top any iconic moment and create new memories. 2008 was/is special but we wouldn't watch sports if that moment couldn't happen again.
Sleep, Marry, Kill: Kingsbury, Mike Gundy, Dana Holgorsen.
Marry Kingsbury. Sleep Holgo. Kill Gundy (not really).
Who won the 2008 Heisman as awarded by your heart?
It is always tough to pick against the guys on your team, but Bradford had an incredible year.
Should Jace Amaro be the starting power forward for TTU's basketball team?
Maybe not starting, but 6th man.